I first discovered Clementine Morrigan’s work by reading their blogs about polyamory. I’ve been polyamorous for most of my adult life, and never have I seen someone so clearly and cogently define the ways that trauma and femme identity impact power dynamics within poly relationships. Dark parts of my heart, that previously had been nearly tucked away, came bobbing to the surface, gasping for air – grateful for a chance to breathe.
Since then I’ve followed Clementine’s work online and I must say: the scope of their wisdom is broad. Clementine’s multi-media approach touches on a wide range of topics from critically engaged feminism, to witchcraft & spirituality, sobriety, trauma recovery, complex relationship & family dynamics, critical perspectives on academia and much much more. An interview series with Clementine could span many posts, but I’ve decided to focus on the ways they use tarot in their zine making, as that topic seems most relevant to you, LRT readers.
You’ve written a series of zines under the title seawitch. I’m curious how you relate to the archetype of the sea witch and why you chose the tarot cards you did, as covers for the zine?
I love the magic of seawitches and sirens. I have always been drawn to large bodies of water, though the bodies of water I am close to are lakes and rivers. My ancestors, in Ireland, lived near the sea. The imagery of the twin-tailed siren is part of a lineage that traces back to the Sheela Na Gig, stone carvings of smiling old women holding open their vulvas. Like the Sheela Na Gig, the siren and seawitch are powerful forces of liminality, spaces in-between. I chose seawitch as the name of my perzine series because it called to me. The magic of water, sea, shapeshifting, sirensong, liminality, and the saltwater of my ancestors, created a powerful elixir, summed up in a word.
I used tarot cards for the covers of several of the seawitch zine series; seawitch #2 features the Three of Cups. I chose this cards because it represents community, celebration, and coming together. It’s a card that demonstrates the joy made possible by the vulnerability of sharing our hearts. As a trauma survivor and recovering alcoholic, isolation and loneliness have been major themes in my life. In seawitch #2 I called upon the magic of the Three of Cups to come out of myself and be with others.
seawitch #5 features the World, and unlike other issues of seawitch, #5 has a colour cover. The World is my favourite tarot card, and its symbolism is similar to the Three of Cups in some ways. After taking the Fool’s Journey through the Major Arcana we end up at the World, or, in the world. The World is about taking your place in community, taking your place in the universe, after having done the inner work that allows you to see past your own projections and actually be with others. This represents so much of what I am trying to do in recovery, and so much of what seawitch is about. In #5 I wrote a lot about my life getting bigger in recovery, and I called upon the magic of the World for that work.
seawitch #6 features the Six of Wands, this time from the Wild Unknown deck. All the other tarot images used for cover art in the seawitch series are from the Rider Waite Smith deck. This is because the Rider Waite Smith deck is my ‘home deck’. It’s the deck I learned on, use most often, and have the strongest connection with. The Wild Unknown deck was my second deck, and I was just learning it at the time of writing seawitch #6. I was noticing how the meanings of cards can come through differently in different decks.
In the Rider Waite Smith deck I had often read the Six of Wands as a warning not to let success go to your head. Self-esteem and confidence are important, but don’t become egotistical. In the Wild Unknown deck, the Six of Wands came through with a different message. It said: believe in yourself, believe in your dreams, be proud of your accomplishments. seawitch #6 was an end of the year/birthday zine in which I reflected on how far I had come, so I called on the magic of the Six of Wands.
seawitch #9 features the High Priestess – a card about going deep, traveling down to the underworld, stripping away ego, and facing what is hiding down there. It is a card of transformation, not through discipline or will, but through surrender. seawitch #9 is a zine in which I worked through some hard and deep stuff, exploring connections between being a survivor, being queer, and working through internalized queerphobia. It’s a zine about secrets and uncovering hidden depths, so I called upon the magic of the High Priestess.
You wrote a zine on polyamory entitled Three of Swords. That’s a heavy and powerful card to call on. How does this card relate to your work and experience with polyamory?
Three of Swords is a zine of my collected writings on polyamory. This zine documents the process of trying polyamory, struggling, closing a relationship, and keeping open the possibility of reopening the relationship. It is also a zine that explores things that are missing from mainstream literature on polyamory, including trauma, being a survivor of child abuse and intimate partner violence, mental health stuff, ableism, misogyny, femmephobia, and competition among femmes.
The Three of Swords is a card that came up over & over for me while I struggled through the extreme pain of jealousy and fear of abandonment that I felt as a person with c-ptsd trying to do polyamory. The Three of Swords is a card that signals deep wounds. I often read it as a trauma card. For me, it represents not only the current pain, but also what that pain leads back to, the original, deeper wounds. The Three of Swords was a card that helped me to understand that my struggles with polyamory, despite my desires for it, were not about a personal failing. Instead, the magic of the Three of Swords directed my attention to the importance of seeing and holding the reality of trauma, and building communities of interdependence rather than self-sufficiency.
In your zine about sobriety entitled make all good things fall apart you again use the art of three of cups. How does this card relate to or embody your work around sobriety?
make all good things fall apart is a collaborative zine series I make with my partner geoff. It’s about sobriety, addiction, alcoholism, recovery, 12 steps, intoxication culture, and other related themes. make all good things fall apart #2 features the Three of Cups from the Wild Unknown deck. I wanted to use the Three of Cups for this cover for two reasons. First of all, as explained earlier, the Three of Cups energy of coming out of self and being with others is an important theme of recovery. Secondly, I wanted to push back against the assumption some people have that the Three of Cups connects to drinking alcohol. Because the Three of Cups, in the Rider Waite Smith deck, show three people celebrating and raising their glasses, many people read it as an image about drinking and partying. As a sober alcoholic, that does not resonate with me, because drinking separates me from people rather than bringing me closer to them.
For me, the cups in the picture are not just cups, but Cups, and Cups represent the heart and emotions. For me, the symbolism of the Three of Cups is a willingness to share our hearts with others. As sober young people, navigating social life, friendship, dating, relationships, sexuality, intimacy, and fun without drinking, the Three of Cups is powerful magic for sharing our hearts.
Clementine Morrigan writes creative nonfiction, poetry, essays, and articles. They also make art which blends genres and mediums. They have a special affinity with plants. More of their work can be found at clementinemorrigan.com.